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Wine 101: The art of popping the cork

We’ve all been there, standing with a champagne flute in hand, waiting for the cork to be popped and praying that it won’t hit you in the eye. It’s a nerve wracking moment for both the host and the guests. There is no special talent for opening a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine, the simple secret is to chill the champagne and turning the bottle instead of pulling the cork.

Ok, first thing you need to do is start chilling the bottle. Champagne or sparkling wine should be served at a temperature of 7°C. If the champagne warm it will foam, spill and make a mess of your party. So not just cool, it should be very cold. The kind of cold that makes you want to remove your hand immediately once it touches the bottle. But is should not be too cold though, because you will loose some of the flavour. If you are having trouble getting the right temperature, here is a tip, fill an ice bucket with ice and place the bottle for 15 to 20 minutes.

Once you've reached the right temperature, get a kitchen towel and dry off the bottle a bit so you can get a good grip. Keep the towel handy! Proceed with removing the foil off the top of the bottle so that the wire cage surrounding the cork is free of foil. It is better to just loosen the cage and not remove it. In some situations the bottle has so much pressure built up that removing the cage will cause the cork to pop. This should not happen. Leaving the wire cage in place will avoid any unexpected release of the cork and thus any injured guests.

It's time to use that towel you're holding. Hold the bottle upright and drape the towel over it. The towel will catch the cork if it unexpectedly pops and it will catch any spilled champagne. Ok, so hold the bottle by its neck and just in case, rest your thumb on the cork. Are you picturing it? Good. Gently loosen the cork, so its head is not touching the rim of the bottle.

Now, with your free hand get a good grip on the “fat” part of the bottle. Slowly turn the bottle while you hold onto the cork... try not to be tempted to yank the cork when you feel it loosen. Just gently turn the bottle until you hear a soft "pop". Hearing a soft pop is vital, because this means that you have preserved the bubbles in your champagne.

Now comes the pouring. Keep in mind that you are not drinking beer. So you don’t want to much foam on top. The secret is to pour just a bit, about an ounce or two fingers worth, of the sparkling wine into the glass. You'll want to use a tall champagne flute that is narrow at the rim. The narrow top will preserve the bubbles. After the first pour, wait for the initial foaming bubbles to subside, and then pour again until about two-thirds of the glass is full. This method will avoid the mess of the foam spilling over the sides of the glass. Keep the bottle in the ice bucket whenever you aren't pouring.

We are pretty sure you don’t need instructions for drinking champagne. But we should remind you that holding the glass by the bowl will warm the champagne very quickly. So it’s better to hold it by the stem. We have to add one more reminder before we go. Champagne is not intended to be opened just for special toasts and important occasions. A good bubbly will complement any meal from brunch to a midnight snack. It is even a real treat just sipped by itself, especially when relaxing with a few good friends. So let’s get it poppin’! (Literally)